On January 27, 2022, Taiwan’s Executive Cabinet issued a policy report to the Parliament.
According to the report, the assembly of the submarine’s pressure hull blocks would be completed by the end of June 2022. The keel of the submarine (also known as the Indigenous Defense Submarine, IDS) was laid in November 2021.
IDS program progress so far
The Taiwanese Navy (Republic of China – ROC Navy) defined a 49.3 billion New Taiwan Dollar (1.6 billion USD) budget from FY 2019 to 2025 for the construction of an IDS prototype in 2018, but both the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition legislators cut or suspended the budget.
In April 2018, the Trump administration approved the essential authorization for American companies to export technologies to Taiwan, which will be required for the construction of submarines.
The development of a submarine construction facility at the CSBC shipyard in Kaohsiung began in May 2019. The facility’s development was completed around a year later, in November 2020.
Taiwanese media reported in May 2020 that there is a need for Italian-made submarine construction equipment; thus, this need was indicated to the Italian national security and intelligence authorities, because the equipment was suspected of containing sensitive technology in March 2020, but was eventually exported to Taiwan without incident.
The construction of the IDS prototype began in November 2020, with a ceremony attended by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), CSBC chairman Cheng Wen-lon (鄭文隆), and other senior national security and military officials.
Taiwanese defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) spoke in parliament in March 2021, confirming the US’ acceptance of export permits for all “red zone” military technologies used in the IDS program. Combat system integration, digital sonar systems, optronic masts (periscopes), torpedoes, torpedo tubes, and other military equipment, as well as diesel engines and other critical platform equipment, are examples of “red zone” technologies.
According to various local media sources, the prototype is likely to be launched ahead of schedule in September 2023. The first submarine is scheduled to be delivered to the ROC Navy in 2024.
Taiwan’s current submarine force
Currently, Taiwan has four submarines. ROCS Hai Shih (sea lion), SS-791 and ROCS Hai Pao (seal), SS-792, are World War II vintage and were transferred from the U.S. in 1970’s.
Both of them received Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) conversion and are unofficial called Guppy class in Taiwan. The two ships are still operational and reportedly capable of combat.
The other two are ageing Chien Lung-class, also known as Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) class. ROCS Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) SS-793 and ROCS Hai Hu (Sea Tiger) SS-794 were purchased from the Netherlands in the 1980’s.
The Chien Lung class are fitted with licensed production AEG SUT 264 heavyweight torpedoes purchased from Indonesia in 1980’s, Harpoon missiles purchased from U.S. in 2008 and MK-48 torpedoes purchased from U.S. in 2017.